Highland Ruse by Madeline Martin is book Two in "The Mercenary Maidens" Series. This is the story of Kaid MacLeod and Delilah Canterbury. I have read the previous book 'Highland Spy' (and Loved It!) but feel this is can easily be a standalone book if you choose to do so.
Delilah is the daughter of a poor family with about 15 kids. When Delilah is sent off to Court to work in King James household she is happy to do so. Then she catches King James's eye and they have a passionate night together where Delilah thinks it will lead to a better standing with him. But King James kicks just treats her as a one night stand. So when Delilah is approached to go to Scotland to become a Spy, Delilah goes forward to do so. Delilah knows there is no life left for her at the court after what she did with the King. After Delilah's training she is sent on a mission alone to act as Lady Elizabeth Seymour who is to marry in to the MacKenzie Clan, Delilah is to be the decoy.
Kaid's enemy is Laird MacKenzie who has all but destroyed Kaid's clan. Laird MacKenzie is an evil man and Kaid just wants peace and for his clan to heal. So he thinks to take Laird MacKenzie betrothed, Elizabeth Seymour to help achieve that goal. Kaid and Delilah's feelings instantly start to grow but what will happen with the truth comes out about Delilah and her mission.
I just loved their exciting story! Ms. Martin is always a 'must go to' author...her books always leave you wanting more of her stories!
Connor needed a new woman for his ranks. King James had knowingly laid the perfect trap. Delilah wanted to know if he had found another woman yet. None of Connor’s women were fragile. The perfect spies. He hated having to look for a new woman. Yet it was an opportunity to spare her from ruin before her ruin could be known. Connor had been doing missions for the king for three years. Ariana had been too greedy. She had gone beyond what she needed for the merchants bill, the servants pay, and rent on her meager lodgings. Ariana despised the word cheating and that she had to do it but that was the only way she could survive. Then Connor went to Ariana and let her know he had seen her cheating. Then Ariana was told she could avoid being in trouble if she went to work for Connor as a spy. But when Connor met in private with the king he had to kill another person. Liv was also to become a spy. So Ariana and Liv became friends. Liv got sick along the way to wherever they were going in Scotland. Sylvi had already escorted them from London. They had already traveled almost a month together. Connor was given two names this time and they had to be taken care within four months. Connor had lost all his land and people from a brutal attack from his friend Kenneth who betrayed him. Kenneth was one of the people’s name he had been given. Ariana is learning to fight and be a spy. Ariana is developing feelings for Connor and he for her. Connor fights his feelings for Ariana. All he has cared about for a long time is getting back what he lost. He also feels that all he has done he doesn’t deserve Ariana. The women were trained in seduction , hand to hand combat, and sword fighting. Connor had an agreement with King James for ten years of service to the crown and then he will be free and his holdings returned to him.
I liked this story It had a lot to it: spies, down trodden women, an assassin, vengeance, deception, love, action, secrets, treachery, murder, a king and so much more. This has a good plot and was well written. I didn’t want to put this down it definitely held my interest all the way through this story. I felt bad for Ariana and Connor and all they had lost in the past. But I did feel the the girls trained much too quickly. Some parts seemed to rush to me but all and all a very good read. I loved the characters and the twists and turns of this story and I recommend.